The military effort of Germany at the outset of the campaign exceeded all anticipations. Her design was to crush the French Army in a few weeks under a tremendous mass of troops. Nothing was neglected to bring that mass together.
The number of German army corps in time of peace is twenty-five. When war began the German General Staff put in the field on the two theatres of operations: 1, as fighting troops, (active, reserve, Ersatz or Landwehr,) sixty-one army corps; 2, as troops to guard communications and territory, formations of the Landsturm.
In October six and a half new army corps made their appearance, plus a division of sailors—in all seven corps. From the end of November to the end of December there was only an insignificant increase, consisting of the division of sailors. In January, 1915, the number of fighting formations put into line by the German Army was therefore sixty-nine army corps, divided as follows:
Active corps, twenty-five and a half; reserve corps, twenty-one and a half; Ersatz brigades, six and a half; reserve corps of new formation, seven and a half, and corps of Landwehr, eight and a half.
The immense effort thus made by Germany explains itself very well, if, having regard to the position of Germany at the opening of the war, one considers that of the Allies. Germany desired to take advantage of the circumstances which enabled her to make a simultaneous mobilization of all her forces—a mobilization which the three allied armies could not carry out so rapidly. Germany wished with the mass of troops to crush first of all the adversary who appeared to her the most dangerous. This effort, broken for the first time on the Marne, attained its maximum at the moment of the battle of Flanders, in which more than fifty army corps out of sixty-nine were pitted against the French, British, and Belgian Armies.
Here also the method followed by Germany is easily comprehensible. At the end of October the Russian danger was beginning to become pressing, and it was necessary to win a decisive victory in the western theatre of the war. It was imperative to give international opinion the impression that Germany remained in that quarter mistress of operations. Finally, it behooved her by this victory to gain the freedom to transport a large number of army corps to Poland. We have seen that the battle of Flanders, instead of being a success for Germany, was a marked defeat. This defeat was fraught with results, and it dominates the present position of the German Army. The plans above described of the German mobilization, which had their justification in view of a prompt victory, were calculated to become extremely perilous from the moment that that victory failed to be gained.